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Netflix bet on the long-ignored romantic comedy this summer. It paid off.

With To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and Set It Up, Netflix has found a rom-com niche.

Lana Condor and Noah Centineo as Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before
Lana Condor and Noah Centineo as Lara Jean and Peter Kavinsky in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

This summer, Netflix invested in resurrecting the mid-budget romantic comedy, acquiring movies like Set It Up and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before for what the streaming service branded as its “Summer of Love.” And now, it’s looking like the gamble paid off: Variety reports that more than 80 million subscribers watched one of the 11 rom-coms on the Summer of Love slate, according to Netflix’s quarterly earnings report.

There was a time when romantic comedies were so ubiquitous as to be boring, and nowhere near the need of resurrection from an industry disruptor. Every summer, movie theaters were filled with cheerfully formulaic movies about beautiful people falling in love and having wacky hijinks, and at least one or two of those movies was reliably pretty good and could sometimes launch a star.

But as Vox’s Todd VanDerWerff has explained, the state of the studio romantic comedy steadily declined over time as the market for midbudget movies eroded. Romantic comedies retreated to indie studios (Obvious Child), or to TV (New Girl), or obscured their rom-com roots with prestigious drama tropes (Silver Linings Playbook). It became rare to be able to just watch a straightforward movie about beautiful people falling in love and making jokes.

Until this summer, when the rom-com came roaring back.

The revival of the rom-com can’t just be traced to Netflix: This was also the summer of Crazy Rich Asians and its massive box office success. But Netflix saturated its market with romantic comedies this summer, and the move seems to have paid off.

Per Netflix, the Summer of Love slate included 11 movies total:

Not all of those movies made a splash — candidly, I’ve never heard of Ali’s Wedding before — but all together, they were an enormous success, streamed by 80 million subscribers.

And some of the Summer of Love rom-coms can stand on their own. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society had a respectable reception, and Set It Up and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before were both critical darlings and social media sensations. To All the Boys in particular is a bona fide hit: Netflix told Variety that To All the Boys was one of its “most viewed original films ever with strong repeat viewing.” (I’m not going to say how often I personally have rewatched To All the Boys, mostly because I have lost count, so I’ll just say, uh, can confirm.)

If Netflix’s success this summer has proved anything, it’s that the time of the romantic comedy has returned. Audiences are ready to fall in love at the movies again.

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